With all my heart I believe that Arthur Russell was one of the most beautiful and talented human beings to have walked this planet. His music ushers me toward emotion which I otherwise might not have felt. Of all the souls the Aids epidemic tragically robbed from us, I mourn Arthur the most. The thought that there might have been more music, wrenches me to the core.
These three films are part of a single work made by the wonderful composer Phill Niblock. It was filmed at his Experimental Intermedia Foundation on September 22, and October 27, 1985, and is one of only a handful of documents displaying Russell’s remarkable talent for performance. I first saw it in 2004 when it was released as a DVD accompanying Audika’s reissue of World of Echo. The audio recordings of these performances make up much of that album. Tragically Arthur was diagnosed with HIV shortly after its release in 1986. Though he remained with us for another six years, the album was to the last document of his solo talents issued during his lifetime. I’ve read that he was feeling pretty sick on the evenings that the films were made. Of all the creative treasure that float within our world, these film are among the most beautiful. Set aside 62 minutes and 32 seconds and let one of our greatest lost talents wash you in sound.
Arthur Russell – Some Imaginary Far Away Type Things A.K.A. Lost In The Meshes
Arthur Russell – Terrace Of Unintelligibility
Arthur Russell -Soon to be Innocent Fun.
Director: Phill Niblock
Producer: Phill Niblock / Experimental Intermedia Foundation
Editor: Phill Niblock
Composer: Arthur Russell
Lights: Steven Hall
Lighting Design: Arthur Russell
Camera & Editing: Phill Niblock
Sound Recording: Steve Cellum
Production Assistant: Stella Varveris
Technical Assistance from:
Staten Island Community Television
with support from the
New York Foundation of the Arts,
The New York State Council on the Arts,
and the National Endowment of the Arts.
Video and Audio recorded on ¾ inch U-matic tape using a single phosphor-tube color camera. Audio additionally recorded onto PCM Digital.
Recorded at Experimental Intermedia Foundation September 22, and October 27, 1985.
Music partially contained on the Arthur Russell album “WORLD OF ECHO”, Audika Records.
Copyright 1988 Phill Niblock and Arthur Russell
6 thoughts on “62 minutes 32 seconds of archival arthur russell performance footage by phill niblock”
Thank you for posting this. Your words are so heartfelt and I am so pleased that Arthur has touched you and others. It has been so many years and yet I truly never tire of re-visiting this. I’m transported right back in time. With thanks to Phil Niblock and Steve Knutson who have insured that others get to experience some of Arthur’s world.
Your heartfelt thoughts are very appreciated. Re-visiting these videos always brings Arthur right back to me…so tender and soulful and so utterly engaged in his music…as he always was. But, he also had a wry sense of humor, too. I miss him always.
Dearest Tom, That my words found there way to to you, and struck a chord in your heart, moves me beyond words. It makes everything that I am attempting with The Hum worthwhile. Arther’s music has been among the most treasured in my collection for the decades that I have known it. I can’t imagine the world with out his voice. His gift to us is beyond measure. One of the things that I wanted to raise as I was writing, but failed to, was the importance of your role in Arthur’s legacy. In the years that I first encountered his music – before Audika began their reissues, he was all but lost – only known to collectors of obscure records like myself. We treasured him, but couldn’t have imagined where the last ten years would take his music and memory. He is celebrated and loved by countless fans. This has had everything to do with your love for him, and your protection and careful concern for his legacy. Though Arthur made the music, few would have heard it without your efforts. For this we owe you an equal debt. That Arthur is always with us is because of you. Our vision of him – our knowing him, has grown from the love you carry for him and touched us all. We owe you a tremendous debt, for which no amount of words can sum. Thank you. Thank you for carrying Aurthur’s music into so many people’s lives. Thank you for protecting it, and doing such a wonderful job curating the previously unheard recordings. Together you and Arthur have made the world a better place, and far more beautiful. Thank you for getting in touch, and sharing your thoughts. They mean the world to me. I will take them forward with me in all I do down the road.
Hi,…not sure who I am writing to as one never knows with blogs and such if your name is Bradford, or it is a pseudonym or something such as that, nonetheless I feel compelled to respond to your continued generosity of words and feelings. We could go back and forth flattering each other but I have very rarely responded to blog postings and/or iTune coverage of Arthur’s songs so when I made a comment and you responded I still feel like I want to say more back to you.
As you might know from some research, interviews etc., after Arthur died I was so pleased that at least “Another Thought” was compiled and released and I didn’t expect much more. I hoped, which was why I held back with such songs as “Wild Combination” because I wanted to honor some commitments that I felt Arthur had made, specifically with Rough Trade, but alas that never came through for so many years and certainly not without Steve/Audika’s involvement. (That was a long run on sentence!) That said, I was a madman with foisting upon friends, family and any willing acquaintance, mixtapes of Arthur’s music. I was on a mission to convince them to hear the music as I did, from Platform on the Ocean to Canvas Home to Love Comes Back! Every day for at least a year I couldn’t leave my apartment without a handful of tapes to carry me through however long I’d be out. And so when you write as you did I thank you for the recognition you so kindly offer as well. Our small apartment was inundated with boxes and boxes of cassettes that reflected a variety of edits and mixes held on the reel to reel tapes. Finally, when Steve entered the picture and agreed to put out unknown material, not hinging on re-releasing the ‘hits’ of Go Bang and Is It all Over My Face, which I no longer controlled. He took a chance and I see “how lucky I am” that he did. I had since gotten rid of most of the cassettes over the years prior to meeting Steve and in an attempt to edit down actual versions of songs that sounded finished but just recently I’ve been on eBay looking for a Walkman to listen to some that I still have. It allows me to listen to lengthy versions of such things as “Being It” that might repeat itself through the course of one side of a 45 minute tape….he just gets in my head and away I go. Thank for letting me retrace those steps. It must be the hour, prompted by your enthusiasm that makes me want to relate that to you. Your note also makes me curious as to what you do?! Are you a musician? Are you from the states? Have you turned all your friends and family into believers? If you have a moment let me know, otherwise I’ll follow The Hum Blog and try to figure out the answers to some of those questions. Again, thanks and with best wishes, Tom >
Dear Tom – My deep apologies for the delay in response to you lovely note. I was in bed with an awful cold when I received it, and have been struggling to catch up and get back on track since. Responding to you has been on my mind for weeks – life has simply gotten in the way until now. In answer to some of your questions. My name is Bradford. I’m American, but after leaving NYC in 2005 I’ve spent very little time in the country. For most of the last decade I lived in London, and am currently living in Mexico City as a means to live cheaply, write, and place myself in the service of the incredible music which is my muse. It’s also incredibly beautiful here. I do occasionally make music, though without pretension, only preforming rarely at the prompting of others. I’m trying to think of a concise way to describe myself. I suppose like most people, the roots of who I am are very tied to youth. I was one of those kids who felt completely outside of the world he found himself in – who fit in nowhere. An angry, lonely, geek. The only way I survived my first 18 years was by escaping into books and music by people who seemed occupy a similar proximity. It’s not an uncommon narrative among those who become involved with the arts. I suppose where I differ was in an early self-consciousness of the great debt I owed to those people whose words and sounds carried me through. I truly believe that they saved my life, and gave it meaning. Despite an early natural disposition and love for writing, at the end of high school I moved to Chicago and went to art school – ultimately becoming a painter – a pursuit that I followed until about five years ago. At some point I started to suffer from a crisis of faith. I began to question the (capitalist) nature of the art world, and my relationship to it – as well as my ability to transmit the ideas that were important to me visually. As a result I began writing again – at that time mostly cultural and art theory. As with most periods of “crisis” I began to question many things about my life, and re-examine what was important to me – what had started me down that path I had taken long before. Despite being entrenched in the art world, both as an artist and earning my supplemental income through working at large galleries, the most important thing in my life had always been music. All of my spare money went to buying records, and there were few moments in my day that I wasn’t immersed in their sounds. Eventually I returned to consider the “dept” I owed so many of these artists, the importance that music has in the world as a means to build empathy, collapse the barriers between us, and bring us together. With this I began to reevaluate my place in culture. Rather than hoping to make my own contribution, I decided to place myself in the service of the thing that had made such a profound impact on my life – thus the origins of The Hum, and subsequently The Hum Blog. My hope is to build context for, and bring attention to the artists and music I love, particularly the ones who suffer neglect – and perhaps help bring them to the ears of others like myself, hoping that they will be able to do the same for them as they have for me. The cause of Arthur’s music has always been very important to me. I have tried to bring him to as many ears as I can since first encountering him in the mid 90’s. Interestingly, if memory serves, it was a member of my family that first introduced me to him – my cousin Colin who I think you’ve met. He runs the Criterion theater and teaches at COA in Bar Harbor. In the time since you’ve written I’ve posted two more pieces focused on Arthur. The most recent is just a little photo album, the other is a longer write up of the reissue of Tower of Meaning which spends some time on Steve and your significance to Arthur’s legacy. I hope you like them. There is also a piece, from earlier in the week, about Julius Eastman who conducted Tower of Meaning, and I expect you knew. You might enjoy that one as well. Thank you so much for reaching out. Hearing your voice and stories has been incredibly important to me. My email is in the contact section. Please drop me a line and stay in touch. With any luck our paths will cross down the road. All my best, and hopefully speak more soon – Bradford